Friday, October 5, 2012


Jacob Kuisl, a public executioner, called a hangman, lives in a small Bavarian town during the 1600s. Although considered a necessary official, Jacob and his family are ostracized by the townspeople and it is expected that his offspring will marry the children of executioners in nearby towns as no one wants to be part of a hangman’s family. When a young boy’s body is pulled from the river with a crude tattoo on his back, the town’s midwife, who is a friend of Jacob, is arrested and accused of witchcraft. Jacob places her in jail in hopes of keeping her safe from a mob that seems intent upon killing her. Jacob and his friend Simon, a young physician who is considered a dandy by the townspeople, take it upon themselves to conduct their own investigation into the child’s death and prove the midwife innocent. When another child’s body is found with the same tattoo, Jacob is pressured to torture the midwife to obtain a confession at soon as possible which he puts off by giving the midwife a concoction to sedate her. But politics are at play in this small town and it seems preordained that the midwife will burn for murders she did not commit. The mystery here is a good one, although the plot, which begins quite interestingly, lags and sputters out. The hangman, who supposedly is intent upon proving the innocence of the midwife, spends most of his time sitting around contemplating or discussing the mystery with Simon. He never seems to be in any sort of hurry to find the murderer although the midwife’s days are numbered. Simon plays the dandy well and his relationship with the hangman’s daughter carries no chemistry at all. In that regard, the hangman’s daughter is only peripherally part of the story; she seems to have no real significance. It could be that the book’s slow pace and amateurish writing (at times) are due to translation, but this version does not live up to the hype.

SIN CREEK by Susan Whitfield

SBI agent Logan Hunter is called away from her bridal shower to a crime scene where the mutilated body of a UNC Wilmington coed has been discovered. It doesn’t take Logan long to learn this young college student had a sordid past tied to pornographers who travel around in vans offering young girls money to be photographed in the nude and holding parties on an elusive ferry featuring drugs and kinky sex. When another young girl’s body is found in a dumpster, Logan teams up with an undercover agent who goes by the nickname Crack. Although Crack rubs Logan the wrong way, they make headway in the case, going undercover and trying to infiltrate the pornography ring. In the interim, Logan marries her fiancĂ© Chase but the two never seem to find time together as Chase is dealing with a death in his family and Logan’s busy with the investigation. When Logan and Crack take drastic measures to catch the pornographer they believe to be the murderer, their plan goes awry and Logan finds herself in mortal danger with no one to help her. #4 in the Logan Hunter series by Susan Whitfield deals with a troubling issue: college students indulging in pornography to pay for their tuition. Whitfield has obviously done her homework and portrays this gritty, grimy world in all its gruesome reality. Logan is an engaging character, a strong woman with a confident attitude. This well-done mystery moves at a quick pace with enough action and suspense to keep readers quickly turning pages. The unexpected ending is somewhat of a shock although ensures avid interest in the next book in this series.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


by Bob Sanchez
ISBN-13: 978-0595407705
$18.95 paperback, $2.99 Kindle

Dietrich Kohl, who calls himself Diet Cola, thinks he has the winning ticket for the lottery, but he’s scheduled to go into the pen for the next little while so breaks into the home of Brody and Carrick Durgin and hides the winning ticket in a vase on their mantle. The vase is actually an urn containing the ashes of the partner and friend of their son Mack Durgin, a retired cop who has relocated to Arizona. The Durgins send the urn to Mack, who carries it with him while he decides what to do with the ashes and along the way meets up with Calliope Vrattos, who’s on her way to California, trying to escape an overzealous Elvis impersonator whose jaw she broke. When Diet Cola gets out of prison, he breaks into the Durgins’ home only to learn the urn is now in Arizona. During the bus ride to Arizona, Diet Cola hooks up with Frosty and Ace, two dim-witted shoplifters who know Mack and are just dumb enough to think they can get in on whatever Diet Cola’s after. Once there, they pair up with the Elvis impersonator stalking Calliope who has planted a GPS on her car. Into the fray steps Zippy, a druggie with a shaved head toting a zipper tattoo, who thinks Mack’s having an affair with his girlfriend. And one can’t forget Poindexter, the javelina, who’s been set free in the desert and misses eating brussel sprouts and TV time with his owner yet manages to lumber his way into the lottery ticket caper.

Bob Sanchez provides his reader with one hilarious romp, rapidly firing scenes so over the top and humorous, the reader is constantly smiling or laughing. Sanchez even offers the javelina’s point of view on occasion, raising the comedic bar even more. Think Elmore Leonard meets Carl Hiaasen, which makes for a fun, enjoyable read.


by Judith Geary
Ingalls Publishing Group
P.O. Box 2500
Banner Elk, NC 28604
ISBN: 9781932158892

In the sequel to Getorix: The Eagle and the Bull, Getorix, a former Celtic slave, plans to leave Rome for his native country, where he intends to return his deceased father’s signet brooch to its rightful place. But before he can do so, his friend Lucius, son of a Roman general, is kidnapped by Celtic raiders costumed only in blue paint. Lucius’s mother implores Getorix to save her son, and he sets out to find Lucius aided by Keltus and Brosch, two Celtic slaves from Lucius’s household, and Senias, a druid prophet. Getorix discovers that the kidnapping was at the behest of Consul Marius, a Roman general and very powerful man. When the warehouse where Lucius was being housed burns to the ground, most assume the body found is that of Lucius, who was instead rescued by Getorix and his allies. But Lucius’s mother does not want this secret known to Marius so Lucius plans to escape with Getorix to Gaul but the two seem doomed to become pawns in a political struggle to oust Marius.

Very few authors have the skill to pull their reader into the time and place as if they are actually there, walking along the streets, experiencing sights, sounds, and smells. Judith Geary does this with much finesse, which this reviewer finds even more admirable due to the fact that she writes about ancient history circa 100 BCE. Her portrayal of the political turmoil in Rome at that time through characters and scenarios is fascinating and informative. The plot is fast-moving and suspenseful and readers will be reluctant to put the book aside.


Appalachian Adventure Mystery
by Maggie Bishop
Ingalls Publishing Group
P.O. Box 2500
Banner Elk, NC 2864
ISBN: 9781932158953

CSI wannabe Jemma Chase is back for another thrilling adventure in the latest addition to the Appalachian Adventure Mystery series. Jemma’s hosting a meeting of the local photography club when newspaper photographer Scott Barker convulses and dies. Jemma calls her boyfriend, Detective Tucker with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department, to the scene. Knowing Jemma’s propensity to engage in amateur sleuthing, Tucker warns her to quell any desire to help investigate. Jemma’s life is pretty busy as trail-leader, photographer and carpenter for her parents’ dude ranch, yet she keeps her ears open for any information she can pass on to Tucker. Once poisoning is confirmed, Tucker and his partner begin to focus on the members of the photography group and it seems everyone has a secret that could possibly lead to murder if revealed. When a past love steps back into Tucker’s life, he tries not to let this distract him from his case or his feelings for Jemma.

Maggie Bishop excels at pulling her reader into the moment with vivid, colorful descriptions of locale and fauna. Jemma Chase is an appealing character, a strong young woman who matures more with each book. Her life as trail-leader for the dude ranch is an intriguing concept and Bishop’s description of daily activities at the ranch is interesting and fun. With great skill, Bishop delivers subtle clues as to the murderer, providing her readers with a challenging mystery.


by Shelly Fredman
Aquinas and Krone Publishing LLC
ISBN: 978-0980044812
$12.00 paperback, $2.99 ebook

Brandy Alexander has a new job as puff piece reporter for a local television station in Philadelphia. Brandy replaced a popular reporter who was fired for being too hefty and none of her coworkers likes her because of this with the exception of anchorperson Tamra Rhineholt who befriends Brandy. But their friendship is short-lived when Tamra is found dead, apparently of a suicide. Brandy thinks there’s more to it than that and is intent on proving her friend didn’t kill herself, which places her own life in danger. To the rescue are the two sexy guys in her life, ex-boyfriend and cop Robert DiCarlo and new friend and bad-boy Nicholas Santiago. It's bad enough someone's trying to kill her but to make matters worse, Brandy’s mother and father return to Philadelphia to attend the bar mitzvah of Brandy’s brother and Brandy’s still dealing with nightmares from her last life-threatening escapade.

Shelly Fredman’s Brandy Alexander No Such Thing As series offers readers humor, suspense, romance, and mystery, all delivered with great panache. Brandy is an endearing character, a somewhat klutzy woman who finds herself torn between her feelings for two men, one from the past, the other in the present and hopefully future. Her attempts at amateur sleuthing always get her in trouble but Brandy manages with each installment to land on her feet, ready to take on the world.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999
ISBN: 978-0439023511
$8.99 Hardcover, $5.98 Ebook

The third book in The Hunger Games finds Katniss, along with her family and Gale, living with the rebels in District 13. Katniss has no idea what has become of Peeta and fears he is dead. She unwillingly and reluctantly has become the symbol of the rebellion and the rebel leaders urge her to exploit this via video feeds to the 12 Districts. Katniss at first feigns infirmity but eventually caves in after negotiating an agreement with the rebel leaders that they will not harm Peeta or the other Hunger Games survivors if they assume leadership. Much as she was manipulated by the government, Katniss now finds herself in the same circumstance with the rebel leaders. When Peeta is rescued, Katniss is greatly relieved, but Peeta has been tortured and brainwashed to the point that he is no longer the same person. Katniss vows to kill President Snow for what he has done to Peeta and joins the rebels in trying to overthrow the government. When her chance comes to kill the president, Katniss does something unexpected that could lead to her death.

Collins ruthlessly depicts the war between the Capitol and rebels in a grisly, violent fashion, leaving nothing to the imagination. Once again, she proves adept at peeling away layers of personas of pertinent characters. Katniss is portrayed as a young woman who wants to live a simple life and does not care for her perception as a heroic young woman ready to lead the cause for freedom yet finds herself thrust again and again into this role. The ending will surprise some readers, although this reviewer sees no other way it could have concluded.


by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0439023498
$9.99, Hardcover

This follow-up to The Hunger Games finds Katniss back in District 12, residing in a prestigious house in Victory Park with her mother and sister. Peeta and Haymitch live nearby although Katniss rarely sees them. She occasionally goes on hunting sprees with her best friend Gale but they never speak of their feelings for one another. Just before Katniss is scheduled to leave with Peeta for the mandatory Victory Tour though the 12 districts, President Snow pays her a visit, letting her know he believes she does not truly love Peeta and used this to manipulate the prior games. Snow tells her that her small act of rebellion has incited unrest in the districts and threatens her if she does not thwart this. Although Katniss tries to downplay her victory and let Peeta do most of the talking during the tour, a speech she makes in one of the districts does the very thing Snow warned her against. Snow’s punishment is to make the upcoming 75th Hunger Games a special one, throwing prior victors into the arena to fight to the death. Katniss and Peeta are chosen from their district and once again Peeta tries to protect Katniss by proclaiming she is carrying his baby. Katniss makes the decision that Peeta will be the one to survive these games and she will do everything possible to ensure he is victor. But Haymitch has been working behind the scenes and Katniss soon finds she has no control over anything, including ending her own life.

Book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy skips over scenarios readers may be curious about such as Katniss’s reunion with Gale after her return from the Hunger Games, how she and Peeta dealt with the aftereffects of the games, etc. However, this does not take away from a powerful tale of love and danger, the confusion of a young woman over her feelings for two men, and the political insights into a corrupt government sliding into rebellion. Collins gives her readers characters to love and hate; an intensely graphic, bloody battle; and three people caught up in an at times agonizing triangular relationship. Undoubtedly, fans will be anxious for the next and final book in this galvanizing series.


by Cindy Sample
L&L Dreamspell
ISBN: 978-1603184274
$16.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

Single mom Laurel McKay reluctantly agrees to take dancing lessons for a routine for her best friend’s upcoming wedding in Lake Tahoe. Klutzy Laurel trips during a practice dance, breaking the heel of her shoe. Later that night, that same heel is found sticking out of the mouth of one of the male instructors, dead in the parking lot with a pool of blood under his head. Laurel thinks things can’t get much worse but they do when Detective Tom Hunter shows up to investigate. Hunter pegged Laurel as a suspect in a prior murder and now it looks like the same thing is happening all over again. To add insult to injury, Laurel’s still reeling over the fact that Hunter dumped her without an explanation after a two-week dating spree. To make matters worse, Laurel’s mother is now engaged to Hunter’s retired partner, a man who also pegged Laurel as a murderer. When the wife of Laurel’s boss becomes the primary suspect, he asks Laurel to help clear his wife’s name. Laurel’s only too happy to do so and off she goes on another amateur sleuthing rampage, dancing all the way, with a whole plethora of suspects to investigate.

This follow-up to Dying for a Date featuring Laurel McKay is another hilarious romp filled with twists and turns and a vexing mystery. Sample introduces her readers to the fiercely competitive world of competition dancing and does not disappoint with the sizzling chemistry between Laurel and Detective Hunter. Sample’s one-liners are amusing and her development of Laurel McKay as a caring, self-deprecating, everyday woman is well-done. This reviewer looks forward to the next in this series.


A Smoky Mountain Novel
by Lin Stepp
Canterbury House Publishing
ISBN: 9780982905418
$15.95 Paperback

Social worker Alice Graham has trouble placing six orphaned children without breaking them up, which she does not want to do, so Alice decides to foster the children. Needing a larger home, she finds a beautiful house in Greenbrier, Tennessee. While touring the home, she sees a man astride a horse on a ridge above, watching her. Alice feels a pull toward this man that is puzzling. When she and the children move into the home, Alice discovers this man, Harrison Ramsey, is her neighbor. Chemistry definitely sizzles between them but Alice, a widow, feels her priority is raising the six children, and Harrison, left at the altar by two different women, has no desire to get involved with another one. But circumstances keep throwing the two together and both turn to God for an answer to the future of their relationship.

This heartwarming story, third in the Smoky Mountain Novel series, will engage the reader from beginning to end. Stepp nicely develops the chemistry between Alice and Harrison, along with the prickliness of their relationship as the two go through a bit of an emotional roller-coaster with their feelings and interactions. Readers will root for the relationship to bloom as Alice’s foster children develop a fondness for Harrison, and he for them. With finesse, Stepp blends romance, inspiration and the intricacies of family dynamics into a charming, uplifting book.


by Carolyn Haines
St. Martin’s Minotaur
ISBN: 0312351607
$9.34, Hardcover

Post World War II, Jade Dupree owns her own beauty shop and is also the undertaker’s assistant in the small Southern town of Drexel, Mississippi. Jade is half-black, her white mother Lucille Longier having handed her over to her black handyman and his wife to raise. Jade’s white half-sister Marlena is married to Lucas Bramlett, the wealthiest man in Drexel. Although Jade’s skills as a hairdresser are sought after by the rich, white women of Drexel, she understands she will never be considered anything but black and these women are not above pointing this out. When Marlena is brutally raped and her daughter disappears, Jade begins to spend time with her sister, hoping to find out who raped her and where her daughter is. Sheriff’s deputy Frank Kimble is investigating the case and he and Jade share an attraction for one another which Frank is more than willing to pursue but Jade reluctant.

Haines excels at portraying the temperamental atmosphere of a small Southern town’s racial infrastructure. There is a melancholic cast to the story, told from Jade’s point of view, that brings to heart the biases blacks faced during that era, as well as the prejudices some held against whites and their own race. The mystery isn’t a complex one and more tertiary to the story than the complexities of and interactions between characters.


by Nancy A. Kaiser
Aronya Publishing
494 Timber Lakes Dr.
Todd, NC 2884
ISBN: 9781613645864
$13.22 paperback/$7.99 ebook

Nancy Kaiser, known for her poignant memoir Letting Go: an Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Journey of Healing & Transformation, has penned another powerful read with Master Teachers, her first book in her Tales of an Animal Communicator series relaying her work as an animal communicator and the lessons learned from the animals with which she communed and treated. Kaiser’s background as a pharmacist and assistant to her veterinarian husband along with her deep love of horses and dogs certainly helped pave her way to becoming an animal communicator. She takes her reader along on her journey of transformation as she realizes the special gift she has and begins to apply it to healing and communicating with animals. We learn the lessons taught with each animal she introduces us to, their perception of afterlife, which is so uplifting, and the spirituality of each of these beautiful animals. Her skillful writing draws her reader into tales of great joy and deep sorrow, of fiercely holding on and learning to let go, and learning to live in the moment. One cannot read this book without coming away knowing animals have souls and are, indeed, our true teachers on this earth if only we will open up our hearts and minds and listen to what they have to tell us.


By Kean Koontz
Bantam Books
1745 Broadway
New York NY 10019
Kindle Single $2.99

12-year-old Crispin lives on the streets with his dog Harley, who has an uncanny ability to guide Crispin out of danger. At 9 years of age, Crispin witnessed the disappearance of his sister and the horrific murder of his brother and now he’s running for his life from his mother and stepfather and a multitude of people who share their beliefs. But Crispin knows he cannot be free until he puts an end to the evilness that resides in his parents’ house.

No author can meet Koontz’s skill at portraying evilness and the characters that do its deeds. As always, there is a heroic dog involved, which this reviewer appreciates, but this time the protagonist is a child instead of the usual adult(s) on the run from whatever deviltry is after them. With great skill, Koontz weaves a suspenseful story made more horrific because it could actually be reality. A tale one thinks can have no happy ending yet Koontz manages to end it on an upbeat note. This novella reminds this reviewer of Koontz’s earlier work, which was so powerful and thrilling to read.