Fiction

“The Code” and “The Black Ace” by G.B. Joyce

 

“The Code” and “The Black Ace” written by award-winning Canadian sportswriter G. B. Joyce, are set in the world of professional hockey. Former pro hockey player, Brad Shade, worked as an investigator for four years post-hockey, but is now an assessor scout for a hockey team based in the States. He interviews junior league prospects and their families, watches them play, and analyzes why they would or would not fit into the franchise. Millions of dollars are at stake and kids that do well in junior hockey might not have what it takes mentally or physically to make a career of it.
 

 

During a scouting trip, Shade has trouble arranging a meet with one of the prospects. In the course of tracking him down, Shade uncovers some disturbing information, a major coverup seems likely, the prospect’s teammate goes missing, and people wind up dead. And Shade gets a chance to apply his P.I. investigative skills to his present scouting gig.

 

“The Code” shows the underbelly of the junior hockey leagues, highlighting the greed and money to be made. Sadly, in any big money sport with youth being fed into the majors, there are parents that chase the dream without regard for what the kids want. And as G.B. Joyce points out, unless there is a real hunger/enthusiasm for the game (not for the fame or money alone), it’s unlikely that even a talented player will have much staying power.

 

A Canadian TV show, “Private Eyes,” is currently being broadcast in the USA. The show is fun and when I discovered that it was based on Joyce’s books, I picked up “The Code,” and soon after, “The Black Ace.” The similarity between the books and the TV show end with the game of hockey and Shade’s stint as a P.I.  Even our hero’s name has been changed to Matt in the TV show. Both versions are good; Shade’s investigations are dogged in both, but on TV he's a full time P.I. and in “The Code” any investigation is tied to the game and his job as a scout.

 

I love the game of hockey in its purest form, so while there is a mystery to be solved in “The Code,” reading this as a sports book was a distinct pleasure. I saw several episodes of the show before picking up the books, and each brings something new to my understanding of both P.I. work and the game of hockey.
 

 

“The Black Ace” is the second book in this hockey/detective series.

Shade is now the official scouting director for the L.A. team, but still spends a lot of time on the road checking out prospects in the junior leagues. 
 

He learns that former teammate and roommate, Martin Mars, has died and that his death has been classified as a suicide. Shade and "Whisper" played together in a history making, five overtime game. On behalf of the franchise, he and a colleague, Chief, attend the funeral. When Shade and Chief pay their respects, the widow shares her doubts that her husband could have committed suicide and asks Shade to look into it. 
 

Shade can’t say no, but Chief has a bad feeling about the situation. Before long, they are beaten up, jailed, threatened, and no closer to the truth. The mystery is why anybody would care enough about their presence to harass them. Shade is not intimidated, won’t leave town because of his promise to the widow, and the threats blow back on the bad guys. He and Chief do some digging, uncover Mars’ shocking past, as well as a mega bucks deal that may be the reason Mars is dead.
 

Shade had attitude on the ice and his off-ice personality hasn't changed. His view of the world is a tad snarky, but he’s entitled. Shade’s manager blew his millions on a shady real estate deal and Shade’s ACL was shredded by an opponent he never liked. But that snarky veneer shows cracks when faced with a good person who needs help and when guilt for his own actions in the past come skating into the present.
 

As Joyce walks us through the process of choosing the next Wayne Gretzky or Martin Brodeur, we learn what kinds of deals need to be made to protect the players and/or the front office. Both books contain lots of tidbits about the life of a hockey player. Did you know that the players fly first class because the seats are bigger/wider? Most of the players have well developed thighs and shoulders and they simply can’t fit into the seats in economy. And here I thought they were just after the special drinks and snacks only available up front.
 

Shade is a complex character, nicely layered with references to the impact life on the road has on his personal relationships. He’s upfront about the career ending injuries he and other players have sustained and knows full well that he was not a gifted player, just a very smart one with a genuine love of the game.

 

According to the online booksellers, “The Code” and “The Black Ace” are followed by “The Third Man In,” rounding out the Brad Shade series. It’s on my ’to buy’ list.

 

Please visit    https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/authors/14875/gare-joyce   to learn more about G.B. Joyce (Gare Joyce for non-fiction) and his books.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Lake of Fire” by Mark Stevens

 

Book Cover "Lake of Fire"

 

Allison Coil, big game hunting guide and occasional investigator in the mountains of Colorado, is back in "Lake of Fire," by Mark Stevens. He  continues the environmental theme of his award-winning series and  focuses on a monster fire that threatens to consume Alison's beloved Flat Top Wilderness. 


Devo, a back to nature enthusiast featured in the series, has been stripping back the layers of civilization and living completely off the land. Devo now leads a working commune of fellow devotees hidden deep in the woods.


During a wide-ranging walk, Devo spots the fire and discovers a charred body, along with possible evidence that the fire was set. A natural phenomenon could be dealt with, but a criminal act that purposely puts them all at risk? Another matter entirely. Devo must balance his wish for his enclave to remain hidden from the world with his desire to do the right thing. Report the body to the authorities? Okay, but only through Allison Coil.


Against the backdrop of the spreading Flat Top fires and the loss of hundreds of homes, Allison works to solve the gruesome murder. She and her friends must contend with a dangerous anti-government group whose leaders don’t care about the fallout, only that they be heard. Stevens’ complex core ensemble characters have developed in each book, with Allison and Trudy emotionally stronger, and Colin and Duncan now more vulnerable. Each has challenges to face, and the subplots intertwine until reaching their unexpected conclusions.


Woven through the storyline, Stevens presents the disaster-fueled dilemma: Should people flee and leave behind a lifetime of sweat and memories? Should they stay and fight to save the property at the peril of their own lives? “Lake of Fire” could be ripped from the headlines as real-life wildfires besiege the Midwest during another dry season.


Uncommonly warm temperatures, tinder dry trees, overworked firefighters, inadequate resources to combat miles of fire – all combine with catastrophic results. A close friend of mine and her family lost everything except the dog and the clothes on their backs to a wildfire. It changed direction and took everything. There was warning, but no options without sufficient water to fight it.


Stevens creates frightening fire scenes as the flames alternately surround Allison on horseback and later approach Colin’s family ranch. He takes a sobering look at how the fires are prioritized when little can be done. “Lake of Fire” touches on some very real political and environmental issues facing Colorado, while delivering a chilling murder mystery.


Please visit www.writermarkstevens.com for information about his other works as well as the soon-to-be-released “The Melancholy Howl.“

 

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Try Something New This Summer

 

Every once in a while, avid readers take a break from their favorite genre and venture into ‘summer reading,’ where the world is either a warm, happy, safe place, or the mishaps that occur are slapstick funny and somebody always has your back. No world crises, no exploding planets, just stories that bring a smile to your face.
 


A few of us indulge our curiosity about demons and witches – as long as the hero/heroines are owners of tea and herb shops, that is.


Then there are the ancient curses that awaken and wreak havoc upon those that get in the way.


If you are primarily a fan of fiction as I am, a foray into the realm of serious non-fiction most often occurs when a compelling true story crosses our paths.


Take a look at the suggestions below and try something a bit different this season.


Happily Ever After

“Sand Dollar Cove,” by Nancy Naigle, is the completely delightful story of a beach area recently hit by bad weather, with people working together to rebuild it. The town relies on tourism to stay afloat, so one of the business owners organizes a fundraising event. We must suspend our disbelief while the rapidly approaching deadline looms to get the work done, but the lead characters are so endearing that we want them to be super human, have their wishes come true, and save the pier. Just in time for summer reading, “Sand Dollar Cove” includes a budding romance between a stranger and our heroine, and the almost magical sand dollars. This could easily fit into the Hallmark Channel lineup of happily ever after stories.


P.I. for Dummies

“Choke,” by Kaye George

Imogene Duckworthy wants to become a private eye, but has no training whatsoever. She gets a book – “P.I. for Dummies,” and has business cards made. Our  hapless heroine feels that she is qualified to ‘detect’ because she found a neighbor’s missing puppy. How hard could it be?

 

This high school graduate, an unwed mother, works for her Uncle at his diner, and when he is found dead, she tries to solve the case. Duckworthy is too naïve to recognize the crooks right in front of her and swoons at the sight of long legs and a smile. Me, oh, my, this gal is in trouble. She is in and out of jail, escapes from cops who are not after her and sees disasters and threats where none exist.

 

“Choke” is a comedy read that takes nothing seriously in solving a mystery – except the lead character herself. What in the world could go wrong? (First book in the series by Agatha nominated, Kaye George) Set near the Oklahoma border, people familiar with the North Texas area will recognize a certain town with fake falls in ‘Wymee Falls.’

 

 

 

Witches, Demons, Wiccans, and ordinary folk

“Booke of the Hidden,” by award-winning author Jeri Westerson, came to Jeri in a dream. Known for her medieval mysteries, her dream was so compelling that she had to write it down, and a few paragraphs turned into this first book in a new series.

 

Kylie Strange has moved to a small Maine town to open a tea and herb shop, and during the shop renovation, she discovers a mysterious book that is older than anyone in town and is completely blank. The locals are more than they seem, there are secrets behind every door, deaths occur in her wake, and Kylie has more than one ‘Being’ interested in her. “Booke of the Hidden” is sexy and funny, with adult themes and situations, with the demons and witches, Wiccans, and assorted other supernatural sorts inhabiting the quaint village. Quick-witted, up-for-everything, crossbow wielding Kylie Strange, is a great new character in the genre.

 

 

Theological Suspense

“Aceldama,” by John Hazen

A coin from the time of Christ is passed through the centuries with dire consequences for its unwitting possessors. A present-day couple faces the wrath of its curse when the husband falls ill. The wife must uncover the reason for his illness before her husband dies – defying logic, the law, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

International connections and supportive friends make “Aceldama” an absorbing read as we discover the identity, power, and meaning of the coin. Several surprises along the way keep the pages turning.

 

 

Non-Fiction

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” by David Grann.

This award-winning, non-fiction account feels like a novel of suspense. Grann recounts the tragedies that unfolded as members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma were displaced, swindled, and murdered in a pattern of corruption and greed at the highest levels of government at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the source of it all? Oil fields that lay under lands given to the Osage Nation. Grann researched the court cases and news of the 1890s and early 1900s, includes photos of the stakeholders, and weaves all of the information into a compelling read. While not the only reason for the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Osage cases made an additional convincing argument for the establishment of a national investigative agency.

 

Stretch your reading horizons and try something new this summer.  🙂

 

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July 4th Mysteries – 2018

 

 

 

Looking for a book to read with a July 4th Mystery theme? This list of twenty-six ‘July 4th Mysteries – 2018’ titles contains entertaining books by bestselling and/or other fun authors where the 4th of July theme is important to the novel. Some are oldies, but goodies, some are relatively recent. If you know of others, please tell us in the comment section.   🙂

 

“Murder on Parade” by Donald Bain  

 

“Murder by Fireworks” by Susan Bernhardt


“The Cat Who Went Underground” by Lilian Jackson Braun


“Dead on the 4th of July” by Meg Chittenden

 

“A Catered Fourth of July” by I. Crawford


“Red, White, and Blue Murder” by Bill Crider

 

“Dead on the Fourth of July” by R.E. Derouin

 

“One Fete in the Grave” by Vickie Fee


“Lemon Meringue Pie Murder” by Joanne Fluke


"Mistaken Identity" by Patricia Gligor


“Tool & Die” by Sarah Graves

 

“Act of Darkness” by Jane Haddam


“Dead, White and Blue” by Carolyn Hart

 

“Yankee Doodle Dead” by Carolyn Hart


“Exit Wounds” by J. A. Jance


“A Timely Vision” by Joyce and Jim Lavene

 

“Silence of the Jams” by Gayle Leeson


“Knee High by the Fourth of July” by Jess Lourey

 

“A Sparrow Falls Fourth of July” by Donna McLean


“Star Spangled Murder” by Leslie Meier

 

“Foal Play” by Kathryn O’Sullivan

 

“4th of July” by James Patterson/Maxine Paetro

 

“Can't Never Tell” by Cathy Pickens


“Death by Deep Dish Pie” by Sharon Short

 

“Independence Day Plague” by Carla Lee Suson

 

“The 4th of July Can Be Murder” by Dianne Vereen
 

Happy 4th to the USA readers and stay safe during the festivities.  Have fun choosing from the July 4th Mysteries – 2018.   🙂 

 

 

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The Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor

 

 

The Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor, delivers action that never stops. The highly successful seventeen novels feature counterterrorism as the central theme, more topical with each new title.

 

Back in 2013, when I reviewed "Takedown," Thor arranged for an entire year of “Thrills, Threats, and Thor.” He invited his fans to read each of the books (one a month) in order, starting in January, 2013, with the first, “The Lions of Lucerne.” Thor’s website has videos and extras about each of the books and of course, an opportunity to buy them.


Scot Harvath is well written, with depth and a sense of humanity despite the gravity of his tasks. We experience moments of his deep commitment and never question his patriotism as the books unfold. “Takedown,” first published in 2006, dealt with post September 11th terrorism action in New York City. See my review here.

 

If you’d like to catch up with the Thor 2013 reading plan, here are the books in order. Click on the titles:

January’s Book: The Lions Of Lucerne
February’s Book: Path Of The Assassin
March’s Book: State Of The Union
April’s Book: Blowback
May’s Book: Takedown
June’s Book: The First Commandment
July’s Book: The Last Patriot
August’s Book: The Apostle
September’s Book: Foreign Influence
October’s Book: The Athena Project
November’s Book: Full Black
December’s Book: Black List

Additional books published since then are (in order):

Hidden Order

Act of War

Code of Conduct

Foreign Agent

Use of Force
 

Please visit www.bradthor.com to read about the current books in the Scot Harvath series, as well as Thor's new release coming in July,  “Spymaster,” the highly anticipated #18.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Macavity Awards-2018

 

 

The Macavity Awards-2018 finalists were nominated by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends of MRI. The winners were announced at opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in St Petersburg, Florida, in September.


Mystery Readers International, Mystery Readers Journal, and the Macavity Awards, were created by Anthony Award winner, Janet Rudolph.


Links to three of the short fiction nominees are included.

Best Mystery Novel
“The Marsh King's Daughter,” by Karen Dionne
“Magpie Murders,” by Anthony Horowitz
“Bluebird, Bluebird,” by Attica Locke
“Glass Houses,” by Louise Penny
“The Old Man,” by Thomas Perry
“The Force,” by Don Winslow

 

Best First Mystery Novel
“Hollywood Homicide,” by Kellye Garrett
“The Dry,” by Jane Harper
“She Rides Shotgun,” by Jordan Harper
“The Lost Ones,” by Sheena Kamal
“The Last Place You Look,” by Kristen Lepionka
“Lost Luggage,” by Wendall Thomas


Best Mystery Short Story
As Ye Sow,” by Craig Faustus Buck, in Passport to Murder: Bouchercon Anthology 2017

“The #2 Pencil,” by Matt Coyle, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea

“Infinite Uticas,” by Terence Faherty (Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017)

Whose Wine is it Anyway?” Barb Goffman, in 50 Shades of Cabernet

“Windward,” by Paul D. Marks, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea

A Necessary Ingredient,” by Art Taylor, in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea


Sue Feder Memorial Award: Best Historical Mystery
“Dangerous to Know,” by Renee Patrick
“The Devouring,” by James R. Benn
“In Farleigh Field,” by Rhys Bowen
“Cast the First Stone,” by James W. Ziskin
“Racing the Devil,” by Charles Todd
“A Rising Man,” by Abir Mukherjee  

 

Congratulations to the Macavity Awards-2018 nominees and winners (indicated in red)  🙂

 

 

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CrimeFest 2018

 

The 10th anniversary of CrimeFest was held in Bristol, England. Attended by over 500 fans, writers, agents, and publishers this year, the CrimeFest Awards began as a variation of the USA’s Left Coast Crime Awards and has become one of the best crime fiction conferences in Europe.
 

In most cases, eligible titles for the various awards were submitted by publishers, and a team of British crime fiction reviewers voted to establish the shortlist and the winning title. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners (indicated in red). Click on the book titles to discover more about the nominees and winners.


CRIMEFEST AWARDS

eDUNNIT AWARD

The eDunnit Award is for the best crime fiction ebook first published in both hardcopy and in electronic format in the British Isles in 2017.

– Chris Brookmyre, Want You Gone 
– Ken Bruen, The Ghosts of Galway 
Michael Connelly, The Late Show
– Joe Ide, IQ 
– Dennis Lehane, Since We Fell 
– Steve Mosby, You Can Run 
– Gunnar Staalesen, Wolves in the Dark 
– Sarah Stovell, Exquisite 


LAST LAUGH AWARD

The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2017.

– Simon Brett, Blotto, Twinks and the Stars of the Silver Screen 
– Christopher Fowler, Bryant & May – Wild Chamber 
Mick Herron, Spook Street 
– Vaseem Khan, The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star 
– Khurrum Rahman, East of Hounslow 
– C.J. Skuse, Sweetpea 
– Antti Tuomainen, The Man Who Died 
– L.C. Tyler, Herring in the Smoke 

 
BEST CRIME NOVEL FOR YOUNG ADULTS (12 – 16)

CRIMEFEST presents this award to celebrate the burgeoning interest in fiction for young adults as a whole. Eligible titles are crime novels for children (ages 12-16) first published in the British Isles in 2017. 

– Cat Clarke, Girlhood 
– Zana Fraillon, The Ones That Disappeared 
– Will Hill, After the Fire 
Patrice Lawrence, Indigo Donut
– E. Lockhart, Genuine Fraud 
– Sophie McKenzie, SweetFreak 
– Teri Terry, Dark Matter: Contagion 
– Teresa Toten, Beware That Girl 


Please visit http://www.crimefest.com/awards-cf/ for nominees and winners in the AUDIBLE SOUNDS OF CRIME, the BEST CRIME NOVEL for CHILDREN 8-12, the H.R.F. KEATING AWARD, and the PETRONA AWARD.

 

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